One night without basketball might have changed something for Nick Young, who returned as Mr. Efficiency for the Los Angeles Lakers, leading them to a surprising 112-106 road win over the Toronto Raptors.
Young, who was suspended for one game after being ejected in the loss to the Phoenix Suns, scored 29 points on only 7-of-13 from the field. He hit five times from beyond the arc and while his usual weird-circus looking shots did were part of the show, he found it quite easy driving to the basket and getting to the line, hitting 10-of-11 from there.
But more than just Young changing his game, have the Lakers turned a page? Their crunch time defense on DeMar DeRozan? Maybe something clicked when Young was angry not just for being ejected against the Suns for shoving Len, but also for being left to fend for his own, while his teammates stayed clear of the area and watched it all unfold. Young was suspended, but the Lakers called a team meeting that might have paved the way for a better future, as good as this awful season can actually offer them; they’re still 16-25, miles away from a playoff spot.
We had an altercation that woke us all up and we’re out there battling with each other now. Now we’re just laying it out there. That was carrying over into the game, a lack of urgency to get back on defense, a lack of urgency to rebound and things like that. When we saw that on tape, that’s the one thing it did for us is to make us realize that on every play, every possession, we have to have that sense of urgency. It’s really gratifying to win back-to-back games on the road, especially with the way we’ve been struggling. I’m just really proud of the guys. They’re stepping up, they’re bringing the effort, bringing the intensity, bringing the focus and not wanting to give up. If we keep plugging along, maybe we’ll get some luck here and get some guys back. If we’ve got seven seconds on the clock, you give Nick the ball and he finds a way to get a shot or get to the line. Right now, we need that. It was great to have him back on the court.
Pau Gasol had a very good game, dominating Jonas Valanciunas in the paint, leaving the Lithuanian for long minutes on the bench due to foul problems and his general inability to handle Gasol. He scored 22 points and added 9 rebounds, while Kendall Marshall continued to be a surprising assist machine, finishing the game with a 10-11 double double. The biggest surprise is Ryan Kelly, suddenly a legitimate starting player, scoring 17 points.
The wild run the Raptors have been on has simmered down. DeMar DeRozan did score 23 points but it took him 24 shots. He didn’t drive to the paint, and kept settling for mid-range jumpers, which are always a bad thing to do. Kyle Lowry added 21 points and 9 assists but they were actually the softer side in the game, which is very surprising considering they were playing the Lakers.